Scary Books for Kids of All Ages
Fall has arrived, and ‘tis the season for all things spooky! With Halloween fast approaching, your kids may be even more interested in getting their hands on a creepy book to read as the nights draw in and the temperature outside drops.
Whether they’re a spooky story aficionado or this’ll be their first foray into a ghostly tale, we can help with a recommendation or two! Below you’ll find a curated list of the very best scary books for kids, complete with an age rating for each so that you can pick the perfect Halloween page-turner for your mini spook seeker!
- But Are Scary Stories Suitable for Kids?
- The Best First Scary Stories for Kids
- Funny Scary Stories
- Chilling Stories for Children Aged 10+
- The Best Ghost Stories for Kids
- Really Scary Stories for Teens!
- Between Worlds
- Frighteningly Fascinating FAQs!
But Are Scary Stories Suitable for Kids?
It depends. A well-chosen book, based on your knowledge of their child and what they can handle, and that’s of an appropriate age rating, is likely to offer fun thrills without crossing the line into content that could cause upset.
Use your instincts and trust your judgment: if this will be your child’s first experience with a ghost story, be sure that it won’t distress them, regardless of the age rating attached to it. Read plenty of reviews, flick through the pages yourself, or ask other parents for their opinion if they have kids that have read the book.
For older kids and teens, things can be a little trickier, and it can be hard to know at what point it’s ok to give them free rein in a bookstore or library to make selections from the main section rather than confining them to the kids’ area.
Again, you know your kids better than anyone else; however, if in doubt, hold out. It’s better to insist on waiting for a year or two (or even more) before allowing them to read a title they’re desperate to get their hands on but that you believe to be too adult.
And on the plus side, many experts believe that reading scary stories is a good way for kids to learn how to deal with fear in real-life settings. Plus, the sense of accomplishment at the end—just like when we’ve ridden a thrills-and-spills rollercoaster—can even give children a boost to their levels of confidence and self-esteem.
The Best First Scary Stories for Kids
For younger kids, snuggling up together on a dark night to read some creepy tales can make for a monstrously magical time! Here’s our pick of scary stories for the family’s youngest members that won’t cause any sleepless nights.
How to Catch a Monster by Adam Wallace
Age rating: 2+
A wonderfully illustrated book that little kids will love, How to Catch a Monster helps kids learn how to conquer their fears and overcome anxiety. Because what if the monster isn’t scary, after all…
From USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Adam Wallace, this charming, funny tale will surely become a firm favorite.
How Many Sleeps ‘Til Halloween? by Laura Knowles
Age rating: 3+
This fun countdown to the scariest night of the year is suitable for even young children, who will love the rhymes and the bright, colorful illustrations throughout—it’s perfect to read together on a chilly fall evening!
The bonus activities at the end of the story keep the fun going. Use the easy-to-follow instructions to help your little one make a Halloween-themed dessert or create a spooky bat decoration for some virtually free seasonal crafting.
Groggle’s Monster Halloween by Diana Murray
Age rating: 3+
Groggle and best friend Snarlina meet up to go trick or treating—but things don’t quite go to plan: Groggle can’t resist gobbling all his treats immediately, while Snarlina is able to wait until they return home.
This sweet, fun story about friendship (and negotiating its challenges) is great Halloween fare for even the littlest trick-or-treater!
Funny Scary Stories
A good laugh is often a great antidote to a scare—the following list of humorous, creepy books should hit the mark for slightly older kids who aren’t ready for serious scares just yet!
The Curse of the Campfire Weenies by David Lubar
Age rating: 9+
This is award-winning David Lubar’s third collection of creepy, weird, and funny short stories for kids that’ll have your child completely engrossed. They’ll meet an overly-zealous Girl Scout, an ancient predator that has figured out how to use the internet to track down its prey, and lots more!
There is a mammoth thirty-five stories included in this anthology, and children will find the author’s description of his inspiration for each of the tales—found at the back of the book— fascinating.
The Ghost of CreepCat by A. J. Vanderhorst
Age rating: 8+
It’s her twelfth birthday, and Lila Banks decides that’s the perfect time to take a hike—but what she doesn’t count on is being joined on her adventure by the ghost of her recently-decease cat. CreepCat wasn’t your typical friendly, fluffy pet when alive—and his journey to the other side has made him even meaner…
This fun, spooky tale is just right for middle-graders who will love the character of Lila, and be keen to follow her on her creepy journey.
Wretched Waterpark by Kiersten White
Age rating: 9+
Gothic, creepy, witty, and as full of twists as a theme park water ride, this book is sure to thrill young readers—it’ll be a hit, particularly, for kids who enjoyed A Series of Unfortunate Events.
When the Sinister-Winterbottom children are offered a trip to the Fathoms of Fun Waterpark by their Aunt Saffronia, they can’t agree quickly enough! But Fathoms of Fun turns out to be an entirely strange experience: a suspicious goo seems to be emanating from the wave machine, the staff members are all dressed in mourning black, and, most weirdly of all, visitors have a habit of disappearing…
1-2-3 Scream! by R. U. Ginns
Age rating: 8+
Kids will be alternately laughing and hiding behind a pillow, reading this collection of scarily funny short stories. Humorous, gross, and creepy, children won’t be able to get enough of the tales in this collection—it’s absolutely made for sharing at a sleepover, too, if you want some inspiration to distract the kids from their screens.
Chilling Stories for Children Aged 10+
For slightly older kids who are ready for something a little scarier but aren’t quite old enough for a full-blooded (excuse the pun!) horror, then you’ll find the perfect pick in the list below.
Don’t Read This Book Before Bed by National Geographic
Age rating: 10+
This spine-tingling collection of spooky tales is just right for reading on a dark night when the wind is howling outside! Inside its pages, readers will visit haunted houses, strange secret passages, and hidden graveyards and meet a ghastly gaggle of ghosts, monsters, zombies, and more.
As well as being full of creepy entertainment, parents of reluctant readers especially may find that their child becomes engrossed in the menacing mysteries, and stories of terror from around the world.
Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories by Roald Dahl
Age rating: 12+
Best-selling and beloved children’s author Roald Dahl may be known for classics such as The BFG and James and the Giant Peach, but he was also fascinated by classic ghost stories—and his penchant for the macabre can be seen in even the most seemingly innocuous of his books for younger kids. Here, he gathers together his very favorite ghostly tales. In the book’s introduction, Dahl relates how he read 749 spooky stories at the British Library as part of the process of choosing the 14 included here.
This collection of short stories is unlikely to be suitable for younger children, but older kids will love this creep and disqueting collection.
The Haunting of Elmwood Manor by Pamela McCord
Age rating: 10+
Pekin Dewlap decides to start a ghost-hunting business with her two best friends—but they’re short of customers. That is until they become involved in trying to solve the mysterious case of a fourteen-year-old girl who went missing over a century earlier and whose spirit has been rumored to haunt the halls of Elmwood Manor ever since.
Children will enjoy this chapter book which manages to stay on the right side of a deliciously creepy line without straying into darker territory.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
From the author of Coraline comes a story of a boy who lives in a graveyard and is being raised by the ghosts that also reside there. An Amazon’s Teacher’s Pick, and winner of the Newbery (US) and Carnegie (UK) medals, The Graveyard Book is strange, magical, and beautifully written.
This edition features sketches from the illustrator, handwritten drafts, and a transcript of the author’s Newbery acceptance speech.
The Best Ghost Stories for Kids
A good ghost story is a must for Halloween. With so many out there, we’ve picked out a few of the best of them below.
The Young Oxford Book of Ghost Stories by Dennis Pepper (ed.)
Age rating: 12+
A blood-curdling collection of stories—both modern and classic—are gathered here in one volume. The tales are drawn from a multitude of different countries and cultures and range from the sinister to the strange.
Each of the stories is perfect to be read aloud (maybe around a fall campfire?), or devoured while hiding underneath the bed covers!
The Girl in the Locked Room by Mary Downing Hahn
Age rating: 10+
From award-winning author Mary Downing Hahn, known for her popular short ghost stories, comes a classic haunted house tale with a contemporary twist.
When Jules moves into a new house with her parents, she can’t shake a sense of foreboding that seems to be centered on the locked room at the top of the house. Gradually, she becomes fascinated by the presence and determined to unlock the door…
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Age rating: 10+
It may be a festive classic, but A Christmas Carol is also a timeless ghost story featuring not just one, but multiple ghosts! With its creepy opening scenes and the appearance of the eerie Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come at the end of the tale, the book is full of the supernatural, magical, and the real meaning of the Christmas season.
While its reading age may be ten plus, depending on your child, you may find you can read this to your little one a few years earlier than this. This particular hardback version of the classic is particularly beautiful, featuring full-color original illustrations by John Leech.
Grandpa’s Ghost Stories by James Flora
Age rating: 4+
And for the younger members of the family who want to join in the ghostly fun? James Flora’s hugely popular, richly illustrated book was first published in 1978 and has been captivating little readers ever since.
Both spooky and silly, kids will enjoy hearing these tales almost as much as mom and dad will enjoy reading them!
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Really Scary Stories for Teens!
And for the teens ready for some serious scares? Here’s our pick of the top titles to make this their most haunted Halloween yet! Each of these books ramps up the fear factor without wandering too far into territory that your older child may not be ready for.
Scary Short Stories for Teens by Bryce Nealham
Age rating: 13+
The perfect scary stories book for teenagers, this collection of spine-tingling tales is suspenseful, weird—and downright creepy! From eerie remote cabins to haunted hotel rooms and alien visitations, there’s every shade of horror on offer here.
This anthology is made up of stories that have featured on the Creepy Story Hour, so this is a must-read for fans of the show.
Teacher’s Pet by Richie Tankersley-Cusick
Age rating: 13+
When Kate, an aspiring horror writer, has the opportunity to attend a special week-long conference taught by a famous author working in the genre, she jumps at the chance. However, when she arrives, there’s no sign of the author—instead, the workshop is being hosted by his brother Gideon… who turns out to have some very usual teaching methods.
Pitched just right for teens wanting a first taste of horror, Teacher’s Pet is part of the well-loved Point Horror series, so if your kid devours this title, there’s lots more similarly frightening fare available!
Spring Break by Barbara Steiners
Age rating: 13+
Angie, her brother, and three best friends think their dreams have come true when their parents agree to them going on a beach vacation together, without chaperones—and the three-story ocean-side rental they find seems perfect.
However, when Angie starts to hear strange noises in the night, she begins to wonder if they’re made the right decision. And then her friends start to go missing…
Escape Room by Maren Stoffels
Age rating: 13+
When a group of teen friends goes along to an escape room experience, they think they know what to expect—but they’re wrong! The gang quickly realizes that the game is life and death, and they’ve got limited time to find their way out.
Escape Room forms part of the Underlined series, thriller-horrors with a big dash of romance, designed for teen readers.
If you’ve got a teen who’s keen to read adult horror books, then you may have misgivings about this. Should you let them read what they want? Or is it better to keep certain titles out of bounds until they’re older? As we’ve mentioned, you know your child best, and what they’re ready for and can handle.
If you’re not quite ready to let them read a full-throttle, gory horror story, then consider one of these titles, which are a more ‘adult’ read without featuring too much splatter. In terms of age ratings, each of these books may nominally be given a 12+ rating, but their suitability will depend on the individual child.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
This classic story is strange, eerie, and utterly compelling. When the narrator marries the wealthy Max de Winter and moves into the beautiful house of Manderley on England’s south coast, she is unnerved by the influence that the previous, late-Mrs de Winter still seems to wield…
And Then There Were None by Agathe Christie
The classic creepy murder mystery that has inspired dozens of imitations, And Then There Were None follows ten strangers who are mysteriously summoned to an island off the Devon coast.
As the guests dine later that evening, the voice of their host plays, informing those gathered that each is harboring a guilty secret… and as the night goes on, the first of the attendees is found murdered.
The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
When a plane crashes on a desert island, it leaves a group of schoolboys stranded, and they need to quickly learn how to survive in their new home.
Whilst the tropical sands and warm ocean seem idyllic, things take a darker turn as the group factionalizes, and a nightmare begins to play out against the paradise backdrop.
Thought-provoking, chilling, and a favorite of authors Stephen King and Suzanne Collins (writer of the Huner Games), The Lord of the Flies is widely regarded as a modern masterpiece.
Frighteningly Fascinating FAQs!
Still got some questions about scary books for kids? No problem: we’ve got the answers!
What Is the Scariest Book Ever Written for Kids?
Great question! Well, although these things are subjective, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde has stood the test of time as one of the creepiest books of all time—it’s been spooking kids and adults alike since its publication in 1886. Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale is widely regarded as one of the first in the horror genre and remains well-loved—and thoroughly terrifying—today!
Why Are Scary Books Good for Kids?
It’s believed that age-appropriate scary books can help kids build resilience and learn how to cope with and process their fears and insecurities. Perhaps most importantly, the thrill of a spooky story can help kids to develop a love of reading and keep them turning the pages.
What Is the Shortest Horror Story Ever?
The shortest scary story ever written is just seventeen words long! It’s called Knock and is by American writer Fredric Brown. The author later went on to write two longer versions of the story. Brown is best known for his mastery of the short-form story and, comprising only two sentences, he clearly outdid himself in this regard. Why not challenge your child to see if they can write a creepy story in even fewer words?
How Do I Know If My Child is Ready to Read a Horror Story?
This will largely come down to two things: your unique knowledge of your child’s personality and the age rating of the specific book you’re considering giving them.
Kids develop at different rates, and, what may be ok for one child at nine years of age, may not be suitable for another until a couple more years. Read plenty of reviews, and ask other parents with kids who have read the book to get as much information as you can if you’re concerned.
When it comes to young kids, reading together is a good way to gauge how they react to the book and also allows you to enjoy the experience together. Doing this gives you a chance to chat with your child about what’s happening in the story as you read and to address any questions or issues that come up.
Get Set for a Happy Halloween of Repulsive Reading!
The spooky season is a great opportunity to introduce kids to some terrifying titles that’ll have them gripped!
Why not take turns sharing your favorite short scary stories or chapters from creepy books as a family on a stormy fall evening? Set the mood by handing round some bowls of popcorn, dimming the lights—perhaps even give everyone some torches!—and snuggling up together, ready for some spine-tingling entertainment.
What are your recommendations for scary books for kids, and how old were your own children when they read their first horror book? We’d love to know your stories, so drop us a line in the comments box below!
The picture on the front page: Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com
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